Over three hours into the Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2023, meeting of Kingston City Council, a new motion, moved by Mayor Bryan Paterson, made it to the floor.
The motion, seconded by Councillor Gregory Ridge, pertained to the “dramatically increased” instances of reported metal thefts — particularly the theft of copper wire from telecommunications wires. The motion sought to have councillors approve of creating a licensing system for salvage yard businesses as “part of the ongoing staff review of City of Kingston Bylaw Number 2006-213, A Bylaw To License, Regulate And Govern Certain Businesses.”
As previously reported, the motion also sought to:
- direct Mayor Paterson to discuss options to regulate salvage yard business throughout the region with the Regional Mayors Council “in an effort to diminish the profitability of the sale of stolen metals.”
- have City Council call on the provincial government to enact legislation to regulate salvage yards “to limit cash transactions and require strict record keeping to assist police in locating and prosecuting offenders.”
- have City Council express concern over the treatment of copper wire theft in the courts, “which routinely grant bail to repeat offenders, given the serious implications these acts have on the safety of community members.”
- have City Council call on the Ontario government to invest more resources into the provincial court system “to prioritize public safety and to ensure that offenders are held accountable for the offences they commit.”
- have a copy of the full motion sent to Premier Doug Ford, Attorney General Doug Downey, and Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Paul Calandra.
Since the motion was moved by Paterson, procedurally he had the first opportunity to speak to it, which meant Deputy Mayor Gary Oosterhof, Councillor for Countryside, took the chair to read the motion and turn the floor over to Paterson. As expected, Paterson reiterated a number of the points that led to this motion, which were covered in Kingstonist’s initial coverage of this matter. These included the recent events involving theft and vandalism at the Belle Park landfill site — which cost the City around $1.5 million — as well as incidents of inter-municipality metal thefts and sales regionally, such as the theft of bleachers at Loyalist Township’s J. Earl Burt Memorial Park ball diamond, which were recovered and flagged by Kingston’s ANS Scrap Metals. Paterson also referred to the in-depth discussions about metal thefts at the most recent Kingston Police Services Board meeting.
“We all know that copper theft has been an issue for a while, but it’s clearly getting worse. And the fact that the effects of it are spreading, I think it calls for action,” Paterson said to the councillors seated around the horseshoe.
“I am keenly aware and very hesitant to regulate if not needed, but in this case, a simple licensing would be enough to require all salvage yards to do the best practice that some salvage yards are already doing,” he continued.
Paterson went on to note that regulations at salvage yards alone, even if across the region, won’t address the second part of the issue: “There is a problem with the way that this has been dealt with in the courts.”
“There is one individual who is involved in copper theft here in Kingston who has been caught 125 times and yet continues to be released on bail without facing any consequences for their actions,” the mayor said. “I’m sorry, that’s ridiculous. There has to be a change.”
Paterson then welcomed any discussion, saying he hoped councillors would support the motion.
After some procedural discussion about who would take the chair to allow Deputy Mayor Oosterhof to speak, former deputy mayor Councillor Jeff McLaren did so.
Oosterhof began by thanking Paterson for the motion. Noting that he “could have written the motion himself” due to his support of the concept, he said the motion “does reflect very well the concerns of my community.”
“This does cover the frustrations of my community and in the rural area,” Oosterhof went on, emphasizing that the motion “reflects the seriousness” of the thefts and their subsequent impact, which can leave residents without phone or internet access.
“I’m confident we are going to support this, and I certainly hope that the bigger impact of the justice system improvements in that area will be realized and that there will be a real impact on limiting these things.”
Councillor Conny Glenn, who voiced support for the motion as well, then posed some questions, first asking the mayor how close the province is to giving consideration to salvage yard regulations.
Paterson responded that he knows metal thefts are an issue across Ontario and that he’s spoken with other municipal leaders about it. But, he said, “I have not yet received any indication about what the province’s intentions are on this. I think we are certainly in the early stages of advocacy, but… given that this is the best practice in other provinces in the country, we’re hoping this is something the province will consider.”
Glenn then asked if, at the local municipal level, the City will be able to enforce the licencing through fines and actually make headway on the issue.
City Solicitor Jenna Morley, who is also the Director of Legal Services for the City of Kingston, responded, “The Municipal Act does provide authority for municipalities to implement a system of business licenses. We regulate all manner of businesses.”
“In the City, our business licensing bylaw is actually undergoing a comprehensive review right now,” Morley said, “so it’s perfect timing, and certainly within our jurisdiction to regulate salvage yard operators and to impose requirements on them that are very similar to those in the provincial legislation.”
With that, Oosterhof called for the vote, which received unanimous support.
Members of the public can view the full agenda from the meeting on the City of Kingston’s City Council meetings webpage, and the meeting can be viewed in full on the Kingston City Council YouTube channel.